DIY Medications Increase in Self-Injected Drugs

DIY Medications Increase in Self-Injected Drugs

The Rise of Self-Injection: Empowering Patients and Shaping the Future of Medicine


July 14, 2023 – “I’ve always been a little wary of needles,” Heather, 65, a resident of Southern California, said as she reminisced about a long-ago high school biology class. The instructor asked them all to prick their finger to find out their blood type. It took her the whole hour to work up her nerve, said Heather, who asked that her real name not be used to protect her privacy, but she did it.

Several decades later, the challenge surfaced again. Her doctor decided to add the lowest dose of Ozempic (semaglutide), injected once a week, to her dose of oral metformin to help manage her blood sugar. “It’s a tiny little needle, and it’s an automatic injector,” Heather told herself, yet she felt like she was right back in high school biology class. So her husband did the honors for the first dose. It wasn’t nearly as bad as she imagined, she said. The needle, she said, was short and fine. “I felt the medicine going in a little bit and some stinging. The next week, I did it on my own,” she said. 

Heather’s off the Ozempic now, her blood sugar managed well again just with metformin. But she, as well as the rest of us, should expect to be taking more injectables in the future, experts say. The era of do-it-yourself medicine is here, growing, and shows no signs of slowing down.

In the past, self-injected medicine was mainly insulin, injected by those with diabetes, along with anti-coagulants for those at high risk of blood clots. Now, we have all these autoimmune disease drugs that can be self-injected. We have powerful low-cholesterol agents, anti-obesity drugs, and more. People are taking multiple injectable drugs every other week. It’s a significant shift considering that just two years ago, many people claimed to have “needle phobia” when offered a COVID-19 vaccine. Fear of needles and invasive medical procedures accounted for about 10% of vaccine hesitancy, according to a U.K. study.

The market for self-injected drugs is increasing, with analysts estimating the global self-injection devices market size to be $6.6 billion in 2021, growing at nearly 6% per year from 2022 to 2030.

Devices like prefilled syringes, pens, and auto-injectors are making self-injection easier than ever before. These advancements in technology, coupled with improved needles, have made self-injections less unpleasant. For instance, many auto-injectors now hide the needle before and after use, giving users a more comfortable experience. Needles have also become thinner and shorter over the years, making injections less painful. However, some drugs may still require larger needles due to their viscosity.

Companies are invested in technology advances to make self-injection more pleasant. For example, Lilly has explored a variety of different injection methods over the years, highlighting the higher adherence and better efficacy achieved through consistent use of injected medications. Amgen has also seen demand for flexible administration of their medicines grow.

Introducing patients to self-injection has become part of the day’s work for healthcare professionals. Educating patients about self-injection not only helps them overcome anxiety but also empowers them to take charge of their own treatment. Support and education play a crucial role in ensuring successful self-injection. While online resources are available, the human touch remains important. Healthcare providers prescribing self-injected medication need to have a plan in place to guide patients to success. If the provider falls short, patients can reach out to drug manufacturers for guidance.

While many drugs can be self-injected, some, often those delivered intravenously, still require clinic or facility visits. However, advancements in science may soon make it possible for these drugs to be self-injected at home. Scientists are working on changing the formulation of some biologics to allow for subcutaneous injections. Though IV medicines will still have a place, the hope is that within the next 5 to 7 years, more biologics will be self-injected by patients at home.

The rise of self-injection is driven by factors like staff shortages, financial pressures on healthcare systems, and the growing aging population. Having patients self-administer shots not only saves time and costs but also allows healthcare providers to focus on other areas that require attention.

As more people become comfortable with self-injection, the future of medicine looks promising. It’s a revolution in injectables that improves patient-centered care and reduces anxiety. By empowering patients and making treatment more convenient, self-injection is shaping the way forward for modern medicine.